Newsmakers of the year: In memoriam
Editor’s Note: As we wrap up 2015, The Aspen Times remembers some of the notable community members we lost this year. Here are some excerpts from obituaries and feature stories about their lives that were originally published in The Aspen Times.
Mary Eshbaugh Hayes
Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, award-winning writer, reporter, columnist, photographer and editor, died in January in her Aspen home after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 86.
A small woman with a very large career, Hayes focused with directness, clarity and simplicity on Aspen and, more than that, on the people of Aspen, in her newspaper stories, her photographs and her books.
Moving to Aspen in 1952, Hayes went to work almost immediately as a reporter and photographer at The Aspen Times, then a struggling small-town weekly. After working at the Times for two years, Hayes took 18 years off to raise her family while still working constantly as a freelance writer and photographer and helping run the family’s earthmoving business and her husband Jim’s silversmith business.
She then returned to the newspaper full time in 1972 as a reporter, then editor and finally the editor-in-chief (under owner-publisher Bil Dunaway), overseeing the paper’s explosive growth and its shift from weekly to daily publication.
Known to one and all as MEH, Hayes was, in fact, known to one and all. After more than 60 years in Aspen, Hayes collected friends (never “acquaintances;” friendship was her gift) from every Aspen generation along the way.
Friends and former ski instructors recruited to Aspen Highlands and Snowmass by the legendary Stein Eriksen remembered him Monday as a charismatic ambassador for skiing who helped shine the spotlight on Aspen.
Eriksen passed away Dec. 27 at his home in Park City, Utah, at age 88. He was most closely tied to Deer Valley Resort, where he served as director of skiing for more than 35 years. However, he left a huge imprint on Aspen in the 1950s into the 1980s, first as an athlete, then as a ski school director and ski shop owner.
Eriksen was a technical race specialist from Norway. He was an Olympic champion and top competitor in the World Championship ski races in the 1950s. He parlayed his success on the slopes into fame and a loyal following in the ski world. His first big successes in the international arena came in Aspen during the 1950 FIS World Championships in Aspen.
Two years later, he won a gold medal in the giant slalom and silver medal in the slalom in the Oslo Olympic Winter Games. He topped that at the 1954 World Championships in Are, Sweden, by becoming the first alpine skier to snare “triple gold.”
Eriksen didn’t fade away or work in some obscure ski industry post after his racing career ended. He remained an icon when skiing swept the U.S. in the 1950s and ’60s. Women swooned over him. Men emulated him. Everyone from ski-area owners to ski filmmakers wanted his endorsements.
Betty Weiss, a prolific artist and champion for the arts in Aspen, died Nov. 30 at age 90.
“Betty has been an icon in our resident artist program,” Red Brick Director Angie Callen wrote in a tribute, “giving other artists someone to look up to as a mentor in business, in life and in art.”
Weiss came to Aspen initially as a visitor from Chicago in the 1960s, then as a part-time resident in the ’70s, eventually making Aspen her full-time home in the early 1990s.
“She was a shining star and a real beacon for people because of her commitment to art — both her own and other people’s,” said local artist and curator Tom Ward.
Weiss worked mostly in acrylics, crafting abstracts in collages of paint and paper. Also a staunch philanthropic supporter of local nonprofits, Weiss served on the board of the Aspen Valley Medical Center and as a fellow at the Aspen Institute. Weiss was a nearly ubiquitous presence on the Aspen arts scene, spending time as a board member at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, the Aspen Art Museum and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
The Roaring Fork Valley lost a woman who lived life fully until the end and was probably the last direct connection to a founding father of Aspen when Ruth Brown Perry passed away peacefully at her Carbondale home March 24.
Perry, 96, known as “Ditty” to most of her family and friends, will be remembered for her “enthusiasm, incomparable hospitality, faith and warmth,” said one of her daughters, Roz Turnbull.
Perry’s father was David R.C. Brown, who came to Aspen in spring 1880 as a young clerk working for storekeeper H.P. Cowenhoven. They made an arduous journey over the Continental Divide with two wagonloads of goods and a larger supply of hope that the silver camp would flourish as a town. Brown made investments that helped Aspen thrive. He helped build a tram up Aspen Mountain, invested in the Colorado Midland Railroad, helped build the municipal waterworks and helped bring electricity to the town.
Tom Anderson, an important player in Aspen’s maturation as a ski resort, died at age 78 from complications due to leukemia in October.
Friends and family remembered Anderson as a dedicated family man, a person of the highest integrity and someone who loved skiing so much that he carved a successful business career out of it.
Anderson was selected over the summer to be inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame in January with his brother Gregg, a longtime spiritual leader and chaplain emeritus at the Aspen Chapel.
Tom first experienced the ski slopes of Aspen Mountain as a teenager in the early 1950s while on a family vacation from Minneapolis. Gregg said he and his brother grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River and had to search to find hills suitable for skiing. They handcrafted pieces of wood with a leather strap for skis.
Tom moved to Aspen full time with his wife, Janny, in 1971.
The Andersons immersed themselves as volunteers with the Aspen Valley Ski Club with other parents after they moved to Aspen. Tom served as the president of the club’s board of directors in 1976-77.
Anderson also became a central figure in Aspen’s hosting of World Cup ski races. He was named the chief of race in the early 1980s and held the post when Aspen hosted the marquee World Cup events — including the men’s downhill races.
He was one of Aspen’s worst bartenders, a hit with the ladies and celebrities, a lover of animals and a prolific letter writer to the local newspapers.
Over the last few years of his life, Don Dixon wasn’t a regular about town like he once was when individual spirit was the hallmark of Aspen’s identity. He used to fire up his muffler-less Harley Davidson at 2 in the morning and drive the downtown streets as a public service to Aspen’s late-night crowd that the bars were closing.
Known better as the Duke, Dixon, who moved to Aspen in the late 1960s, spent his last two years at Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale, where he was admitted after his health began to fail.
He died April 28, at age 75, with some of his closest friends by his side, including Kimberly Wilson-Jarrell, who once lived with him in the 1980s.
Celebrities were attracted to Dixon. Among them were Aspen regulars Jack Nicholson, Jimmy Buffett, Ed Bradley and Don Henley. When he learned of Dixon’s passing, Michael Douglas wrote Dixon’s friend Bob Rafelson to send his condolences.
“He was the life of the party, let’s just say,” Wilson-Jarrell said. “He had an appeal for these stars. He was still the Duke. He wasn’t trying to suck up to them.”
Kellie Joyce (Morgan) Schenck
Kellie Joyce (Morgan) Schenck, born on Jan. 30, 1969, moved to Aspen with her husband John Schenck in 1993 and was quickly hired by the Aspen School District to teach fifth grade and coach volleyball at the high school. She coached the high school team for five years, earning several league championships, two trips to the state tournament and one Coach of the Year Award. She later received the inaugural Aspen Teacher of the Year Award in 1999 and again a few years later.
Even with the arrival of children, Kellie never changed her focus on her career. In 2005, only months after the birth of her youngest boys, twins, she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. This did not stop her drive to keep teaching, she would only miss an afternoon here or there during chemotherapy by arranging her treatments on Fridays so that she could be back in the classroom ready to teach on Monday. She passed away May 20.
As the literary world mourned James Salter as a great American novelist and short-story writer, Aspenites recalled him as a friend, a strong skier and a legendary dinner-party host.
Salter, author of influential novels such as “Light Years” and “A Sport and a Pastime,” called Aspen home — at least part time — for more than 50 years.
He began visiting Aspen in 1959, after a chance meeting with Aspen Ski School director Lefty Brinkman in New York, and moved here full time in 1968. He settled in a mining-era Victorian on North Street in the West End a few years later. In recent years, he split his time between Aspen and Bridgehampton, New York, near where he died in June at 90.
“In memory, no town could be more beautiful than Aspen when I first saw it almost 25 years ago in the winter dusk,” Salter wrote in a 1981 essay in The New York Times. “Suddenly the road made a couple of turns and became a wide, faded street lined with old houses and trees. At the end of it stood a solid relic of a hotel, its windows blazing with light. It was the Jerome. We dined there that night in the darkness of the Rockies surrounded by an unseen wilderness I could not even imagine.”
Martin Raphael Flug — Brooklyn born, Harvard and Yale educated and, in the end, Aspen to his very core — died at his home on Feb. 10 after a brief illness. He was 84.
Marty, as everyone knew him, left his mark on the world as an entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist. He pioneered innovations in the food processing and handling business and his list of charitable contributions was long, including many that were made anonymously.
In Aspen, he was a trustee of the Aspen Center for Physics, a life trustee of the Aspen Music Festival and School and founder and supporter of the Evelyn R. Flug Children’s Library in Aspen.
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Roaring Fork Fire Rescue held a ceremony on Friday to honor a retiring firefighter and paramedic who answered the call for 24 years as both a volunteer and paid staff member.